Finding balance, looking up

Today in yoga class we were focusing on balance poses. One of the wonderful and challenging things about balance poses is that, when you’re focused on keeping your balance, you’re forced into the moment–forced to be fully present in the pose and in your life.

While in one of those poses, our yoga teacher said something very simple yet very useful: “Look up.”

I hadn’t realized I was looking down, but I very much was, instinctively following the bending of my body as I folded forward on one foot to get into the pose.

Both the pose and staying in the pose got easier, when I did that one thing: looked up.

I remember how when my very first short story sold, I discovered there were two ways I could respond, when someone asked, “what do you write?” The first involved looking down and saying, in a sort of mumble/apology, “Oh, it’s just one story, and it’s only in a shared world anthology anyway …”

Those conversations were pretty awkward. Both I and the person I was speaking to would try to get out of them as quickly as possible. And I realized there was another way I could answer.

I could look up. Meet the other person’s eyes. Speak without apology–and with honest pride–as I said, “I’m a new writer, and my first story just appeared in an anthology.” If I had the book with me I’d hold it up. With or without the book, I would definitely smile. And the other person would generally smile too, and congratulate me, and there’d be nothing awkward about it at all.

When we look down, my yoga teacher said today, we draw our energy down with us, which can make some poses harder.

I’ve learned and relearned this throughout my writing life, and throughout the rest of my life too. It’s remarkably easy to forget. Even when you remember, sometimes it’s harder than it sounds.

But things go better if you just look up.

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